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HindustanTimes Thu,31 Jul 2014

Review: Escape to Nowhere

IANS   July 16, 2012
First Published: 09:07 IST(16/7/2012) | Last Updated: 09:07 IST(16/7/2012)
In May 2004 a tsunami hit the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), India's external intelligence agency. Rabinder Singh, a joint secretary, disappeared from Delhi though he was under 24-hour surveillance. The former Indian Army officer's disappearing act was as dramatic as was his spying career. But even as he made a safe getaway, a couple of eleventh hour mistakes he and his handler made helped the Indians to realize that the man had flown to the US under the protection of the CIA, whose agent he was.

The book under review is meant to be fiction; but it is clearly THE story of the traitor, his spying career, how he came to be suspected, how RAW's counter-espionage unit mounted a major surveillance on him, how the civilian brass at the highest level wanted the surveillance ended because they did not want anything to spike India-US ties, how the committed ones in RAW continued to keep a watch on the spy, and how, sadly, he got away via Nepal.

The book is unique. It has no chapters. It is so racy and thrilling that I would regard it as the finest work in the genre after "The Day of the Jackal". It begins from Day 1 and goes on, up to Day 96, when the mystery behind his disappearance is cleared. Akin to Perry Mason, the action is all too rapid with no full stops.

Rabinder Singh is Ravi Mohan in the book. The then RAW chief, C.D. Sahay, is Wasan. Barring the names, everything else in the book, from the minute description of the inside of RAW headquarters to the elaborate net that was laid to trap the traitor and his handler seem as close to reality as they can be.

This is a chilling book at one level. You realize that the Agency (RAW is never referred to by name) has men of steely character and moral courage. And there are those who are mediocre, view pornography at work, violate internal safety mechanisms and, in rare instances, betray their country.

Once the bird flew away, there was hell to pay. The months of painstaking surveillance mounted on the man, his car, his office and his home counted for nothing. The fact that his arrest was being delayed only to trap his handler was lost sight of. The finale was deadly: Some in the highest echelons of the government with no love for RAW went on the offensive, reducing some of those who were meticulously tracking the traitor into mental wrecks.

Amar Bhushan, who retired as special secretary in the Cabinet Secretariat in 2005, has written a fascinating book that everyone in the Indian security establishment must read. Indeed, every Indian ought to read this book. It chronicles a sad yet, seemingly, true story.


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